Saturday, April 11, 2009

Umstead 100 mile 2009 Final Lap, Lap 8 including Race Report

Approaching the finish after 27 hours and 46 minutes (the official results are now available here). This year (like last) I actually ran to the finish line. My first Umstead my spirit was crushed so I just walked dejectedly to the finish so happy to be done with my death march. This year while quite pained, I felt pretty good at the finish.
Starting my final lap about 89 miles into the event. Sadly my whole outfit looks to be in disarray and yet my husband couldn't take a moment to warn me about the fact I looked like a hobo! And now wonder why they kept asking me my number at the aid stations!

A view of the lake during my last lap. you will notice in the distance on the downhill there is a sign that tells runners they are going the wrong way (well unless you just want to end it all in the lake at mile ~92!)

With Tristan, Bob and Derek at about mile 98. All the runners in this picture are a mess. Sadly again, Tristan omitted telling me about my lack of fashion sense and my modified knee brace was visible (or else I want to be like Micheal Jackson and start a bizarre trend!). My knee became excruciatingly painful mid-way through lap 6 (miles ~70). After that I was just trying to be stronger then my knee. Since I know cold really irritates it, this "brace" was primarily geared towards keeping it warm.

Running by the Wisteria about mile 99 during the last section of the bridle path. This was the last time I was genuinely running, but I did try to scamper pretty quickly along the jeep trail since I wanted to break 28 hours. Sadly I had no idea when the gun went off at the start and really did not want to finish in 28 hours and 5 seconds or some really small amount over 28 hours. In fact I had created quite a buffer and finished well ahead of 28 hours!

In my opinion the Umstead 100 mile endurance run is a 7 lap race and a bittersweet victory lap. Sadly my victory lap has an auspicious start with Tristan bringing up my beloved deceased dog, Snowball as our first topic of conversation. What the #($#(??? While I am barely moving forward at a snails pace I seriously consider running back to the aid station to ask for a “real” pacer. And in fact I get a little teary but he does not see this. I think I really have to fire him for good. Otherwise I have got to bring a big stick and whack him with it when he is being a bad pacer.

After I compose myself I tell him that we should not talk about my cat, Pepsi, dog Snowball, guinea pig, Susay or Author or any of my other pets that are no longer alive. How in the world with millions of potential conversation starters does he always end up bringing up my beloved but dead pets? I really need to give him some “Southwest Airlines conversation starters” if he is going to pace me in the future. My most recent free flight came with the following suggestions: “If you were stranded on a deserted island which actor or actress would least like to be stuck there with?”, “What’s the most unusual thing you know how to do? Are you a dog person? Cat person? Fish person? Something else entirely?”, “When was the first time you flew Southwest Airlines and where did you go?” Of course the conversation stoppers Southwest recommends are classic as well: “The most unusual thing I know is how to do is eakspay igpay atinlay”. “If I were stranded on a deserted on a deserted island I think you’re the person I’d least like to be stuck with”. Start every sentence with the phrase, “Like my cat Mr. Peepers always says….”, “This represents my primary voyage on an Earth bound jet propulsion vehicle. You humanoids and your inventions are so cute!” Classic, eh?

Since our conversation is not going that well, the miles seem to drag on. Since all of the 50 milers and many of the 100 milers are finished there are very few runners on the out and back. Since it is still a little before 6 a.m. it is still dark. But as we head back from the airport spur it is starting to get a bit lighter.

We slowly trudge along but I am now in pain (I have been since about mile 65) and am in a bad mood making each mile seem vastly further then it is. As we get close to the unmanned aid station we see Rob A and Susan D completing their 7th lap. They are moving fast (and/or I am moving slow) and I would not be surprised if they caught up to me by the finish.

Each mile is getting harder to complete but after 20-25 minutes I pass another mile marker. I am convinced 100 mile race directors mismark the last mile markers by placing them about 5-10 miles apart. But alas on this loop course it is obvious that my exhaustion, pain and slow pace is just making it that much longer to accomplish completion of each mile but the mile markers have not been moved. Oh yeah, and my Garmin is also confirming each miles passing, so either the race director, garmin, and course markers have a really solid alliance or my conjectured conspiracy is just that.

Scuffling along on the course (because walking would be too strong a word), I realize I need the potty again. Luckily we are near a nice flat area that has easy access to a tree right alongside the course. I take full advantage and am happy that it is early enough that there are not many folks out for Sunday strolls. Because I now have my seamless underpants, marathongirl skirt, thermal pants and windpants it is a bit of effort to get my layers sufficiently down to do my business. But ultimately I succeed. Since I felt a bit queasy for several hours I know I am drinking less, thus I am peeing less. This is good because my quads of steel are now quads of screaming, sissy barely able to hold me up paper. Luckily I do not fall over or pee on myself. It is all about the small victories now.

As we continue on, Tristan and I talk a little about my lap with my sister, both the lap we all did together as well as my solo lap with Cindy. Tristan mentions he is a little horrified by the fact that my sister was spitting a lot. Cindy mentioned that her current boyfriend/suitor thinks it is hot that she spits. This is good because the boyfriend must think she is really hot! In Cindy’s defense the pollen and dust is pretty bad so spitting is one way to jettison this gunk from one’s mouth. I sort of accept it and just really look forward to brushing my teeth and my post race shower. We also chat about my sister’s relationship and speculate wildly. Tristan said I did not ask enough questions (and I asked plenty) because a few of his questions about her current relationship that I cannot answer. I am a little disturbed by his interest in my sister’s relationship but let it pass.

At the Y-intersection by the lake there is an interesting fog. It is very pretty (although also a bit spooky) so Tristan takes a slight detour to take a picture. I continue moving forward since anything other than forward progress delays my quest for the finish line. After the unmanned water stop and the loop de loops we are heading into AS #2.

At AS#2, I take off a few of my layers but keep most on (even though I know it will get warmer). Sadly I also know in the sawtooths there are pockets of really cold air and I am moving slower and slower. My last mile into the aid station took over 25 minutes, even without a bathroom break! At the aid station I take one small cup of Gatorade, drink a bit and then drink a full cup of coke. I foolishly do not get my water bottle refilled but luckily at the next unmanned water station I do get it partially refilled. I also take a few crackers but decide to hope I have consumed enough calories to get me to the finish. I also know I have 2 marathon bars in my bag in case I do run out of steam. Unfortunately at this time my stomach is getting queasier by the minute and I am a little concerned I am going to jettison a lot of food from one orifice or another. Thus, I decide to limit the carnage if this does occur.

As I start heading out of the aid station, I thank the volunteers profusely for all their help and encouragement. My friend Gumbi (from the pacer desk) arrives as I am in the aid station and I get to thank him as well. It is sad to leave the aid station but this means I have only 5.6 miles to the finish line. This is a manageable distance and I have close to 4 hours to do it. I am excited because I can almost taste, smell and feel the finish line. As I head out of the aid station, I ask if they want me to move my bag to the truck that has arrived, but the nice volunteers assure me they can attend to it. As I head out, Tristan doubles back to my drop bag and gets some of my encouragement letters. In the night (when I had Pacer Deb), I was able to read 1 letter but because the aid station was so hot (and I was concerned about erupting into flames), I did not read the remainder of my ~30 “encouragement” letters my husband solicited! While a mediocre crew, questionable pacer and poor Sherpa, my husband is good at getting friends to provide encouragement for me.

With a big bag of encouraging e-mails in his hand Tristan catches up to me. I am simply walking now because my knees are quite bothersome, my feet are tired of being stomped on for ~100 miles and my stomach hurts a bit. I am a mess! Tristan says there are lots of e-mails to be read and since we are going so slowly he can read them while I walk along. This sounds good to me. We decide that I should try to run 20 minute miles which should enable me to break 28 hours with about 1 minute to spare (although at this time I am clocking 25 minute miles!). Using our arithmetic skills (of which I have little to begin with but by this time I am incapable of figuring out the smallest of equations) Tristan suggests a letter every 5 minutes. This sounds good to me, so I set my watch onto its intermediate timer for 5 minute intervals. This task really helps the time pass and gives me so much energy!

I am honored, humbled and moved by all the kind and encouraging words my friends write. There are jokes (runner and non-runner) which make me laugh, poignant reminders of how I have met so many friends, stories and fables and all sorts of thoughtful letters. All too often we forget how a small word, a kind gesture or even a simple hug can make a dramatic impact on someone. Suddenly Tristan and I are increasing our speed to 19 minute miles, 18 minute miles, 17 minute miles and even faster. I laugh, I cry, I reflect. My race is coming together really well and I feel like all my friends are a part of it. I reminisce about how I have met many of these folks. Some are family who I have known my whole life (apparently my dad thinks commenting how he ate grasshoppers at Mexico is a good subject to include in my encouragement letter. He also mentions after your finish eating grasshoppers you can use their legs to pick your teeth—does anyone want to adopt me?), some are friends that I know I will meet again from relatively recent races and others are co-worker friends who have watched me grow and blossom as a runner. This fills up the remainder of my 5.5 miles and gives me so much pep in my step apparently Tristan is having some difficulty keeping up.

At the unmanned water stop I have Tristan refill my water bottle while I take advantage of a stump on the side of the trail to take off my pants. Sadly the stump is not very stable and it is on a pretty sheer cliff. Since I realize the instability after one let is off, I am kind of trapped. I cannot hop my way to a better stump. Visions of falling down this hill and breaking a leg or even getting slightly crushed go through my mind. And I do not have my insurance card, aack!!! I try to wiggle as little as possible and to do this quickly. This is not easy when my knees will not bend more then about 175 degrees (barely better then straight for those of you not in the know). Finally with Tristan’s minimal help my pants are off. Clearly I need to practice having Tristan take off my clothing at home. In fact I remember at JFK50 there were a few guys ready to help me get off my pants, so one would think Tristan would be up for the task as a guy. I finally gingerly get up and take a few steps from the log. It does not go rolling down the hill, but I comment it would be pretty funny if it did.

As my Sherpa, mule, reader and pacer, I give Tristan my two pairs of pants. Somewhere earlier during the “backstretch” within the Sawtooths I also give Tristan my thermal shirt and second long sleeve shirt. Once my pants are off I realize my legs are a bit chilly. While my left leg is tough and can handle this, my right knee has the tendency of seizing up if it gets too chilled. I realize I need to put on my pants or somehow warm it. Tying my long sleeve shirt around my knee seems like a good idea, so I do this. I now look like kind of a freak, but my knee appreciates the extra bit of warmth. Tristan and I resume running and pick up the pace a bit. 14 minute miles become 13 minute miles and pretty soon I am consistently running 12 minute miles. I am shocked about my ability to move and am getting more excited each step I take. I am now creating a small buffer so I could slow down a bit and still get a sub 28 hour 100 mile.

Unfortunately my stomach starts feeling really bad. I am cramping up really bad and feel like I am about to have a “bojangles” experience. I am in a panic. This would be a disaster and while I carry toilet paper, I am not sure I would have enough if this tragedy occurred (and I expect my friend Anthony would suddenly start calling me “Ms. Poopy Pants” although this concern only comes up after the race). I keep moving fast, take 2 Immodium and just hope that I can hold it for the next 2.5 miles. I express my concerns to Tristan and tell him if I dart from the finish line to the bathroom he should send in a lady (or come into the bathroom after a bit if I do not get out in a timely manner). I try to focus on the fact that my legs are finally moving quickly and that each step I take is a step closer to the finish line and a bathroom!

As we head up Mt Everest for the final time I am glad to think to myself, good riddance Mt Everest. This hill to the T-intersection has been the bane of my existence for 8 laps, but now I am winning our epic battle. At the unmanned aid station Tristan grabs a cup of Gatorade but I move on. He catches up and we continue moving at about a 12-14 minute mile pace depending on when I look at my Garmin. I run the hill running a 16 minute mile pace. I am loving my Garmin because it assures me I am keeping ahead of my 20 minute mile pace and gaining significant amounts of time.

Up the second major hill I see two runners walking. As we get close I realize it is my friends Bob (from blog my runs) and Derek (from kickrunners). They are both in good spirits mentally but physically both are a mess. I convince Tristan to take a picture. Then a runner comes along and we snag her for a group photo of Bob, Tristan, Derek and I. She is running fast and I think she might have grudgingly does this. Well regardless we get a really good picture of all of us but this delay probably costs us all about a minute. I tell them they should tell the race timers and have it charged to my time Bob points out the blood gushing through his sneakers. This is terrible and I feel for him. Having suffered through terrible blisters in 2007, I feel so sad that he is having these difficulties. But both he and Derek are moving forward. I really need a bathroom and want to finish so I resume running. After a few steps I suggest to Tristan that he should go back to Derek and Bob and read them a few jokes but he says he is not sure he could catch me. I think he is joking but after the race he suggests I almost dropped him.

Tristan takes a few action shots of me running, and continues to read encouraging e-mails. It ends up that once we get to the jeep road there are only one or two left. Since it is a bit treacherous I suggest we need to focus on just moving forward. I continue to run this section although at a bit slower a pace of about 14 minute miles. I am really excited. There is nothing that will stop me. Well except for a fall. My fall about 1 mile from the finish at Rocky Raccoon 50 miler is fresh in my mind so I pay particular attention to my footing. During the really gnarly sections (I know there really aren’t any but after 28 hours and 100 miles I think there are), I slow to a very fast walk. Passing my the Umstead 100 sign I pause briefly and am so excited. Tristan gets out the video camera, but I am starting to cry. But this time (unlike on my way out for this lap) they are tears of joy. I am completely overwhelmed.

I know I am going to break 28 hours but now it is just a question of by how much. My watch is all messed up (ie I cannot see the time because of my interval timing) and Tristan’s watch seems to be off, so we both think I have 2-3 minutes to spare for my goal of sub-28 hours. I pass by the bathroom hoping that my stomach is able to hold off for a few more minutes. I start the small climb to the aid station. There is an unexpectedly large crowd at the finish line. And they seem to know it is me. After I finished, I realized that spectators can see runners for a significant amount of time prior to that final hill. Tristan veers off to the non-runner side and I continue up to the finish line. My friends, fellow runners, race officials, volunteers are all cheering. I am feeling really good but hoping I do not fall. Finally I reach the finish line. I take about 2 steps just to be sure (because the hanging red line is actually hard to figure out where exactly it is) and lean over a bit.

I am excited, exhausted, proud, thrilled. So many emotions go through me. I have now finished a 100 miler and I am sure it is under 28 hours. I ask for my time and somehow hear 27 hours and 55 minutes. Wow, that is close to my goal of 28 hours!

Alas, a few days later my friend Anthony posts my unofficial time as 27 hours and 46 minutes. I now have my results in my hand and it says I finished my 100 mile run in 27 hours, 46 minutes and 48 secconds. I had nearly 15 minutes to spare!

After I stand bent over for a few minutes trying to compose myself, figure out what to do with my life and catch my breath, I decide I just need to walk a bit, refill my bottle, get some Gatorade and ginger ale. Helpful volunteers attend to all my needs and soon enough I have no idea what to do with myself. Sitting at the finish line with Anthony, Turtle, and other friends seem like a good idea. So that is what I do.

As I sit enjoying the beautiful day, savoring my victory, and chatting with folks at the finish line, I see my friends trickle in as they complete their 100 mile journey. We are all champions for this effort.

While I wait for runners to finish, some of the spectators ask me about their family members or friends on the course. I do the best I can to provide information. I know about Bob and Derek and several other runners I was near during my brief visit at AS #2. I also can talk about several runners I saw during the out and back section at 5:30 or 6 in the morning. I also suggest that in my opinion if you make it to lap #8 at Umstead you are going to finish (and I say this having my spirit completely crushed by the race in 2007). Of course there is the chance you time out, but I think knowing the clock is ticking can suddenly put some pep in your step.

I see Bob and Derek finish a bit after I finish. They both look exhausted and pained and the walk up the hill looks grueling. My friends from Hawaii finish. My friend Kim S finishes with plenty of time to spare. She will not be last this year! My friend Angela I finishes the 100, I am so excited for her after her DNF at Rocky Raccoon 100 earlier this winter! Rob A and Susan D. look really strong as they finish! All of my friends are finishing successfully. I am so happy and excited for all of them!

Tristan goes to the car and brings Gilligan to headquarters. Sadly he ties Gilligan very far from me. I do not get some Gilligan loving until about 40 minutes after my finish as I head to the shower. Gilligan is as excited to see me as I am to see him. But sadly I cannot jump up and down and excitedly wag my tail. I can just pet his head. He pays me back for this apparent lack of enthusiasm by stepping on my foot!

For the first time after the race, I use the toilet. It has running water, I can sit and relax so I take my time peeing. Apparently the Immodium does the trick and I do not have a Bojangles experience during the race or even after the race. This is good. After peeing I get up and take a shower. Although others may suggest a cold shower, ice bath or some other form of torture I stick with a nice hot shower. I limit myself to 10 minutes because I do not want to worry Tristan and I want to cheer on more runners.

After my shower I return to the finish line and continue to cheer runners. My friend Carolyn G. from Virginia Happy Trails ends up being the final female runner to finish and earns a “Norwoodie” (a walking stick). Loius J. from VA is the final runner to complete the race and earns a Norwoodie and a perseverance rock. I cheer on both of these friends with gusto. I have at one point been the final finisher and it was so nice to have a small crowd cheering at the finish line.

It was a great race and a great weekend for me. I got to do what I love, with people whom I love and I could not have asked for a more perfect race experience. I have already cleared my calendar for March 28th next year so I can do Umstead 100 once again!


FDA/Industry Co-chairs said...

Congrats Tammy, and well done! I enjoyed reading your blog. You looked like you actually enjoyed this....hmmmm :-)

From your trusted FDA/Industry 2009 Co-chair-


Jimbo said...

Fabulous race reports, I thoroughly enjoyed reading them. I hope "Bojangles moment" is not trademarked, because that is an awesome expression :)

Congratulations again on your superb time, and I look forward to seeing you again on March 28th next year.

Runner Tammy said...

Hi Carmen my co-chair & friend,

Thanks for congrats. I had a great time during the race and it will prepare me for out 3 day megamarathon of our conference in September.

Hi Jimbo,

I am glad you enjoyed reading my race report, in my word document it is 33 pages! I had a great time during the race and really enjoyed our brief periods along the course together.

I sure hope the "Bojangles experience" does not become too popular because it is a great way to discretely allude to major stomach issues.


Narda said...

Congratulations!! sounds like an awesome race.

Runner Tammy said...


The race was AMAZING! And the final lap I was reminded of our very fun journey during the National Marathon through your kind note solicited from Tristan.

I look forward to our next event.

Until then, happy running!